If you regularly pick up the phone and dial an unqualified client with no written and verbal rehearsal of what you will say or how you will answer questions you might as well not pick up the phone. People get called all day every day and it’s easy to see who has made the effort and done their homework first.
How many times have you finally got through to the client to be told, leave it with me, send me an email, forward literature or call back next month? But why is that? Chances are you have tried to cram everything about you, your company and the product into a 2-3-minute pitch.
Now imagine if you walked up to the first person on the street, got down on one knee and asked them to marry you. Crazy who would do that, you would first want to find out about them, what interests they had, compatibility, trustworthiness, build a re-pour, see them numerous times and possibly even fall in love. But why then do salespeople think that the first engagement with a client will result in a sale and if it doesn’t the client isn’t worth knowing?
Just like a relationship a client wants to know that you’re interested in their needs and concerns. If you stop selling and just ask simple questions about what the client needs both now and, in the future, you will find that a client will be more open to talking with you.
You need a well-rehearsed script to guide the potential customer through the sales process so that you qualify the lead all the way through and then when it gets to the purchase order it’s simply a formality.
Sales Person: I’m calling to speak with Mr Jones on the new lightweight widget.
(if you don’t know the person’s name find out before you make the call, with the power of the internet it is just lazy to not find out this level of information and if you can’t find it on the internet call the company get the name and then call back later – you will come across as more informed and chances are your call will be put through)
Sales Person: Mr Jones, Its Bob from Flexible Widgets, you may have been reading about the launch of the new lightweight, flexible, multicoloured widget. I have just received my sales samples and I would like you to be one of the first people to see them.
Sales Person: Mr Jones will your ABC machine be upgrading to take the new component?
When will that be?
(By understanding the answer to this question allows you to understand the importance of scheduling a visit)
Sales Person: Can we schedule an appointment for Thursday, does morning or afternoon suit?
Sales Person: Maybe if R&D is free I could call with them to leave them a sample also?
Price has not been discussed, as we are not in a race to the lowest price. Quantity and delivery schedules have not been discussed as it is unlikely at this early stage that Mr Jones will know that either. Until these factors are known a price should not be given for bespoke or made-to-order products. The key reason I state this is because if you have expensive raw materials with Minimum Order Quantities (MOQ) you could see your profit sitting on the shelf all year tying up valuable cash flow.
When the salesperson meets with Mr Jones he is expecting to be sold to but imagine if the salesperson was to be simply informative on the first visit. What’s the point in going in with a hard sell if the ABC machine will not be ready for several months to take the new widget. The salesperson is better placed to gather all the facts so that they can make a professional proposition to the client when the time is right.
Quoting a price too early often will leave that stuck in the buyer’s mind, if the quantity, call off schedule, design changes it can sometimes be difficult to increase the price from what you have quoted originally.
Understanding the buyers need is critical, do they need alterations? By asking this question early on will allow you to work on what the client needs and will give you an advantage over your competitors.
Consider if the R&D team said they wanted to get ahead of their competitors so they would be making alteration which would result in changes to your widget from its Commercially Off The Shelf (COTS) state. By engaging with them and offering to produce prototypes and samples brings your company into the design phase of the customer's new machine. While your competitors are all pitching the COTS Widget you are already down the line in product development and engaging with multiple tiers within the client organisation.
Lastly, do they have the budget? A luxury car salesperson would be continually on test drives but for the fact that they ask and check if the person has the means to make the purchase and are in the market today to make a purchase. Don’t add sales figures to your sales pipeline until you know a) the budget b) a delivery call-off timeline.
Have a clear plan of action, know it, rehearse it and delivery it with confidence.